Blood flow restriction training (BFRT) is a method that reduces blood flow to a limb while exercising using specialized blood pressure cuffs. This reduction in blood flow causes a cascade reaction that can lead to strength gains and quicker recovery following exercise. The advantage of BFRT is that strength gains that are comparable to high resistance training can be achieved by only doing body weight or low weight exercises. This allows clients to gain strength quicker when adding heavier weight is not possible due to pain or current strength levels. In certain cases BFRT can be used to prevent muscle atrophy following surgery allowing for a shorter recovery time.
How does it work?
The technique of BFRT uses a controlled pneumatic tourniquet system to the most proximal region of the upper and/or lower limbs. When the therapist inflates the cuff, there is gradual mechanical compression of the blood flow underneath the cuff. This partial restriction of blood flow restricts blood to structures distal to the cuff. The restriction of blood flow results in inadequate oxygen supply (hypoxia) within the distal muscle tissue. Furthermore, restricted venous blood flow back to the heart results in blood pooling within the capillaries of the compressed limbs. The combination of these conditions in patients being able to train at low-to moderate-intensities and still reap the benefits of an intense heavy weight-lifting session.
What are the physical benefits of BFRT?
- Improved muscular strength.
- Prevention of muscular atrophy.
- Development of newer and healthier blood vessels.
- Improved bone mineral density.
There is strong evidence demonstrating that BFRT is superior to low weight/body weight resistance training! BFRT is a great treatment option for post surgical patients looking to increase strength and improve recovery.
At Active Solutions Health and Sport blood flow restriction training is performed by our physiotherapist, Jay Huggins, RPT.